mikebarrett

Dec 16

Lillard Adds Game Winner to Resume

By mikebarrett Posted in: Pelicans
A homestand that started with a humbling loss to the Sacramento Kings, has now turned into a three-game winning streak for the Trail Blazers that has been highlighted by a win over the San Antonio Spurs, and a game-winning shot by Damian Lillard with three-tenths of a second left that saved the day against the New Orleans Hornets.

Yes, there were several great performances that helped the Blazers win their 11th game of the season on Sunday night, but Lillard gets top billing, simply because he absolutely turned what would have been a big, blown lead, into an exhilarating victory.  All in all it wasn't a bad way for him to follow up a 29-point game against San Antonio, on the national stage on Thursday. 

We positioned this night, along with everyone else, as the night the two front runners for Rookie of the Year would finally meet head to head.  And, even though Lillard's final numbers weren't dramatically better than those of Anthony Davis, the fact that it was Lillard being lifted in the air by teammates afterward means he takes the commanding lead in this race.

Let's take a second to remind ourselves that Lillard has only played in 23 regular-season NBA games.  Yes, I know it seems he's been around a lot longer than that.

We also have to remind ourselves that the Trail Blazers held a 16-point lead in this game late in the third quarter.  Then, perhaps, got a little cute, lost a little intensity, and had us all sweating until the final splash down at the end of that long Lillard three.

Even though Lillard's star was shining the brightest at the end, there are others who belong in that spotlight.  

J.J. Hickson is doing some ridiculous things.  When Portland swooped in and stole him from the Golden State Warriors at the trade deadline last year, they knew he was a willing scorer, and was certainly athletic, but his resume didn't say anything about his defense and rebounding. Well, he's now put together five-consecutive double-double performances, and that gives him 13 in just 23 games this season.  On this night, Hickson put 16 rebounds with his 24 points.  Where in the heck would this team be without Hickson?  

Nic Batum is still suffering from significant lower-back pain.  He gutted out the San Antonio game, and not only hit the dagger three, but also blocked a Tony Parker attempt in the lane in the final minute (before hitting two free throws).  His encore?  How about 11 points, 10 assists, 5 blocks, 5 steals, and 5 rebounds.  Batum became the first Blazer in franchise history to record at least 10 assists, 5 blocks, and 5 steals in a game, and the first NBA player since 2001 to accomplish it.  You can qualify that as a "historic" line. 

Luke Babbitt also deserves a mention, as he followed up his 12-point night against San Antonio, with 10 against New Orleans.  He was also involved in the game-winning play, as he took the in-bounds pass, handed it to Lillard, and then set the screen that gave Damian the room he needed to rise and fire.

LaMarcus Aldridge, before leaving the game in the final minute with a sprained ankle, scored 20 points, and was very solid once again.  We watched the replay of his ankle rolling over, and didn't think it looked terribly serious.  The first thing he asked me in the locker room after the game was "how did it look on the replay?"  He had the ankle wrapped, and did have crutches next to him, but it didn't seem like something that would keep him out an extended period of time.  I'm no doctor (even though I occasionally play one on TV), but it didn't appear to be terribly swollen, and it's probably a good thing he'll have four full days before the Blazers play again.  It'll be very sore, but Thursday is a long ways off.

Wesley Matthews surprisingly started the game for Portland, and hit his first three-point attempt, but just said his ailing hip didn't feel right and took himself out of the game.  Like Aldridge, he'll have a few more days to get right before this team plays again.

By the way, and this sounds like a no-brainer stat, but when the Blazers shoot well they win. They are now 9-1 on the season when shooting over 45 percent.  They shot 46.3 percent in this game.

With the win, the Blazers are now 11-12 on the season.  Given all the new pieces, new system, new coach, and remembering that they played 12 of their first 19 on the road, count me as pretty satisfied with that mark.  For a young team it's about on-the-job training, and there's really not a better way to put that.  As we've said, over and over again, it's a process.  Count this as another step in the right direction.


24 Comments

  1. Anybody want to see an instant replay? Anybody miss the big shot? You came to the right place to get a look:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUnW976sgJs

    by Shem on 12/16/2012 11:17 PM
  2. I was in the room with you Mike. JJ, Batum, Lill, Aldridge, Sasha, Will, Price, Meyers. Did I mention JJ. I'm tired. More tomorrow.

    by Divotking on 12/16/2012 11:32 PM
  3. Yeah, J.J. is showing more with every passing game, and my doubts about him have faded fast. I always knew Nic had a complete game, and am glad he finally had one where he showed off all aspects on the same night. The bench guys are making steady progress. It's funny though, that the way Terry Stotts uses his bench guys reminds me of the way soccer managers handle the starting line-up. He just seems to decide that tonight he's going to sit someone and play someone else, regardless of who was in there the last few games. Tonight it was Nolan's turn to sit, and Ronnie's turn on the court. It would have been an off night for Jared too, if it hadn't been for LA's turned ankle. The approach seems to be working out pretty well. It feels like Terry has a plan for using these guys, even if it's not always easy to figure out what that plan is. But it's certainly more interesting than Nate's approach of picking his guys and letting the rest rot on the end of the bench. And Luke sure has to be liking the change. He was in there again when it mattered, helping decide the game. What a difference a year--and a coaching change--makes!

    by David Maclaine on 12/17/2012 12:17 AM
  4. We almost threw this one away. It's funny how when a team lets up it is so hard to get it together again. Hopefully they will learn from it, but we have all seen teams do it over and over. Only the top teams don't just put the knife in but give it a twist.

    by Ancientone on 12/17/2012 12:25 AM
  5. It was a great game that came out like it should have. We are usually a lot more guilty of letting teams back in the game then we were tonight. The fact is when NO made their run, which all teams usually do, we had our bench in, but was still playing good Ball, but the NOH was playing really tough ball at the time. Maybe Stotts left his bench in to long, but as you said Mike, it is a learning process and what a way to get on the job training by leaving your bench in and showing them you had confidence in them.
    That 15 point lead was somewhat deceiving as the Blazers just put on a little run of their own. Other then those two runs the game was played pretty even.

    The two big plays that saved our bacon was the refs not biting on Anderson's flop that gave LMA a open look to put down a big shot and of course as everybody knows Lillard, not so unlike the great BRoy got the ball and drilled the three point that iced the game.

    But also as you said Mike, JJ was also the big hero for the game.+

    Regardless of what the win loss records show, the NOH under Williams, played a great game. and the Blazers just simply out played them from start to finish and we won a game we should have won and have got a unbelievable win and loss record of their own.

    by Hg on 12/17/2012 1:47 AM
  6. Good game whos the woman that sits by Mike Rice

    by LA 2012 on 12/17/2012 11:17 AM
  7. Batum's 5x5 was pretty special. That's at least 5 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks, and 5 steals in case you didn't follow. Batum is the first to do that since AK47 did it in 2006.

    On RealGM's general board, fans from all teams were cheering him on to get it done. In fact, when Batum was at 4 blocks and 4 rebounds, the 5x5 crowd was on watch. It was cool to see so many people just want to see Batum pull this feat off.

    Here's the video to that in case you want to see how all over the place Batum was:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txUwxDceOg8

    by Shem on 12/17/2012 12:32 PM
  8. I thought there were no "dots" in JJ as his middle name is not a "J" so JJ is just his nickname, said it himself on TV during an interview...

    by Daniel Brown on 12/17/2012 12:55 PM
  9. I know everybody talking about the blazers are now 3-0 without Wesley Matthews.. So are they going to trade him . I hope not I like the team alot where it is... I hope LA gets better....

    by LA 2012 on 12/17/2012 2:13 PM
  10. Great game! We now have a little mr bigshot. JJ and LA really played well in the post. If we get those guys putting up 20-10 apiece every game we going to be dangerous. Great article mike! Tell Rice he was hilarious broadcasting that game!

    by riverman on 12/17/2012 2:37 PM
  11. i saw the end of the 3rd quarter to the finish. way to go blazers! hickson is an absolute stud out there. the dude just never quits. nice stat line for batum, and he's hurt. lillard is the man! it's redundant to explain.

    my one complaint with this game is with the lethargic fans at the rose garden. wow, can we get a pulse? sure, they woke up with about 2 or 3 minutes remaining but sheeesh, give the team a boost a little bit earlier please. i could hear the squeaky shoes, the basketball bouncing, and yells for screens much to well. there was no crowd buzz. for what i saw, i'd grade the crowd a big fat F. this is portland for crying out loud. RIP CITY!

    go blazers!

    by thedanman on 12/17/2012 5:55 PM
  12. Thanks Mike. Good to see us approaching .500 by putting this nice little streak together. Hope we continue the learning and picking up some good wins along the way. Greetings from Atlanta :)

    by Anees on 12/17/2012 8:57 PM
  13. Another nail biter...
    I thought we should win but hate watching them give away a 14 point lead.
    Tell the team not to give the fans such a stress test.
    Loving their wins.
    Looking forward to the return of Wes.
    Hope LA is ok.
    JJ is a stud out there and DLill is the man!

    by allie-oop on 12/17/2012 10:22 PM
  14. JJ
    Gotta hand it to him. He is doing the things it takes to stay on the floor. Of all the players he is buying into Stotts system as much as anyone. He doesn't need the rock. He goes and gets it.
    Stotts appears to have a good sense of player strengths and how to make them fit within the system. Attack DLill and LMA will burn you. Double LMA and the shooters go off. For opposing teams the Blazers can be unpredictable. It's a nice change from years past.
    Continue to improve on defense and the Blazers can be a problem.

    by Divotking on 12/18/2012 10:30 AM
  15. Hey Mike,

    Have you noticed JJ's tremendous excitement to play and perform well?
    He comes into the game makes a huge play and follows with a huge smile and more great plays. I'm no psychologist, but it seems like when he does that the team has a totally new feel to them and they start gelling.

    Can you think of another blazer in recent history who had that excitement and had the ability to get everyone else into it as he (sometimes) does?

    by joe.k on 12/18/2012 11:53 AM
  16. Yes Patty Mills

    by Hg on 12/18/2012 11:57 AM
  17. Check and checkmate.

    by Ancientone on 12/18/2012 8:21 PM
  18. Good call Hg.

    by Divotking on 12/18/2012 8:26 PM
  19. In the middle of the extended road trip, with losses mounting, Wesley Matthews called for a players meeting. It wasn't to call out any individual players. It had a positive tone. He said believe in yourself. Believe in the team. They came together and pulled out a couple road wins.
    I like the heartbeat of this team. A collection of swag, goofiness, determination and team unity. Fun season so far.

    by the golden ladder on 12/19/2012 9:07 AM
  20. I like the Blazers getting well rested this month. Practice time during the season is golden. Not to mention time to heal bumps and bruises.
    The Blazers should come out of this month showing signs of cohesiveness on offense and defense. Finally the Blazers have had some good Karma go there way.
    Feels a lot different than the compressed schedule of last year.

    by the golden ladder on 12/19/2012 3:54 PM
  21. hg - um patty was an excited player, but he was a very limited role player on the blazers. I mean someone who is in the rotation

    by joe.k on 12/19/2012 5:25 PM
  22. Although his minutes were limited you could throw Pendy in that group.

    by Divotking on 12/19/2012 5:50 PM
  23. @batum shaka laka:
    Patty was in the rotation for a short time, but when he wasn't playing he was a cheerleader on the sideline that pumped up the players out on the floor. So he may not be a JJ, in which I love, but he was an important key to bringing energy and calming effect to the whole team.


    Finally GAME DAY.

    by Hg on 12/20/2012 6:04 AM
  24. Lillard, draft choice of the decade? Oden-bust. Roy-knee problems. That leaves LaMarcus. Any thoughts? To even ponder the question says something.
    Too soon? 25 games into rookie season.
    Whatever the answer, this will be a heck of a ride.

    by the golden ladder on 12/20/2012 12:49 PM
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